Saddle Weights Explained

A strange juxtaposition, the flashbulb spectacle of the winner’s circle and then the jockey’s stealthy dismount, banana peel saddle hung over-arm and carried loot-like atop a scale, where needles tremble with guilty implication.

But for the many winners I’ve witnessed, it’s almost seemed a formality: A half-second pause, a nod from the clerk, and soon thereafter a finalized result. Between the jock’s room, where the weight of a fully-outfitted rider and saddle is initially recorded, and the winner’s circle, where it’s all checked again, totals have not changed.

But rules are rules, and weights in horse racing are serious measure. Check the program of any handicap or weight for age race, and you’ll see each starter assigned a specific weight, the result of age, sex, distance, time of year and previous success. Indeed, Man O’ War’s retirement was likely catalyzed by Jockey Club handicapper Walter S. Vosburgh’s guess that the colt would have to carry 150 pounds after triumphant 2- and 3-year-old campaigns.

Weights have evolved from the days of lead-pocket saddle pads, now constructed of felt, high-density polymer and vulcanized rubber.

Racing 101 has the scoop:


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